October 14, 2016

Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres appointed UN Secretary-General

Antonio Guterres will take over the role of UN secretary-general from Ban Ki-moon when his second five-year term comes to an end on January 1, 2017, having led the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) from 2005 to 2015.

Chosen from among 13 candidates, Guterres’ nomination came despite many believing it was time for the organization to visibly promote gender equality by appointing a woman to the role for the first time. It is likely he will appoint a female candidate as his deputy.

As the organization’s top diplomat, the secretary-general has to run an unwieldy bureaucracy and manage the competing demands of the world’s largest powers, stepping in to prevent international disputes from escalating.

At a time when there are over 65 million displaced people who are of concern to the UNHCR, plus approximately another 15 to 20 million people displaced by disasters and climate change, Guterres may just have the skill set required to galvanize the UN and lead the international community’s response to the planet’s displacement crisis.
In his statement on his appointment, Guterres stated: “I have faith in the United Nations because I believe in the universal values its stands for: peace, justice, human dignity, tolerance and solidarity. Based on these values, I believe that diversity in all its forms is a tremendous asset, and not a threat; that in societies that are more and more multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious, diversity can bring us together, not drive us apart.”

In his article on refugee integration for IZA World of Labor, Pieter Bevelander of the University of Malmö, Sweden, calls for more in-depth knowledge about the integration of refugees into host country labor markets: “[e]xisting studies show that refugees have a lower employment rate and income level than family reunion migrants and labor migrants, but that over time this income and employment gap diminishes or disappears altogether.” One reason for this slower adaptation process is the depreciation of human capital and credentials due to current asylum and skill accreditation processes. Bevelander recommends improving these policies for the benefit of both refugees and their host countries.

Related articles:
Integrating refugees into labor markets, by Pieter Bevelander
Can market mechanisms solve the refugee crisis?, by Jesús Fernández-Huertas Moraga
Setting policy on asylum: Has the EU got it right?, by Tim Hatton